The folding Oru Kayak goes from flatpack to floating in just minutes. Tough enough for the real world? We took it down the Colorado River, armed with a shotgun, to find out.
We all grew up hunting ducks. For most, it was in the form of 8-bit ducks on the original Nintendo. But, for the outdoorsman, it came in the form of real birds with their families. Being on the water affords the mobility and versatility to pursue ducks that cannot be found from shore. So, my friends and I planned a little canoe trip and Wes suggested I take this kayak.
Stephen's dog Benton, a German shorthaired pointer, is anxiously awaiting his job as part of the duck hunt.
The previous night we had loaded up the truck with two canoes, one folding kayak, five guys, and a dog. We drove through the night and landed on the edge of the Colorado river about 20 miles north of the Mexican border at Ferguson Lake. Here, the river is wide, slow and flat, traveling about three miles per hour. By volume, more than 17,000 cubic feet of water are passing by every second, or the equivalent of an olympic sized swimming pool flowing by every 30 seconds...it is a lot of water.
Arriving in the dark, we were greeted by the howling of a pack of coyotes, a sound that I had grown up with in the desert and love to hear. In an unplanned unison we all broke out howling back; this was going to be an awesome trip.
We were on the water before the sun, shooting hours officially start 30 minutes before sunrise. I was nervous. This was my first official duck hunt and, to top it off, I was in a contraption that I could fold into a backpack. I had taken the Oru Bay kayak out on a few short paddles through the harbor back home before embarking on this journey. Stability was my main concern, would I be able to take a shot at a duck flying overhead at 50 mph?
Put the fun between your legs.
Because we were only venturing out on the lake for the morning hunt, I only packed a water bottle, a few snacks, a box of shells and the shotgun. I loaded all the goods in to the most useful pack of the trip, the Sealine Kodiak Deck Bag and mounted it to the top of the Oru. Their kayak includes a bungee "x-strap" over the bow of the boat and I was easily able to attach this bag to that. The window in the bag was super helpful for seeing the gear I needed. Being right in front of me, I didn't have to fumble between my legs trying to get something out.
I had the shotgun resting between my legs. I attached a tether from it to the boat in case things went belly up.
Throughout the morning I saw few ducks flying overhead, but there was a plethora of cormorant, coots, and other waterfowl that were immune to my hunting antics. Patrick and Steve were in one canoe while David and Stephen were in the other. We each ventured out following the coastline of the lake trying to flush any birds up. A few hundred yards away, and behind a bend in the lake, Patrick had taken a shot at a low flying bird, but had missed. At the first crack of the gun, all the wise birds took off. By wise, I mean the ducks that were privy to our pursuit. It was nearly the end of the season and by this time the birds that remained were no fools to hunters. We had to be sneaky!
I knew that now was the time for me to test out the stability of the boat without all of my gear inside. Stephen had me post up behind a small hill while he and David went around the other side to try to flush a few birds my way. I knew that I only wanted to take a shot over the bow of the boat, anything off to one side would surely pitch me into the water. As I saw the ducks heading my way, I slowly fumbled the paddle and the gun, lined up the shot, pretended I was on land and that everything was going to be ok and I wasn't about to get wet, and pulled the trigger.
The bird was directly over the bow and in the best position for me to try this combo of folding kayak and shotgun. To my surprise, I wasn't wet! But neither was the bird...he just kept flying. I was stoked regardless, proving that yes, you can indeed shoot a shotgun from an origami kayak. I was wearing the Oru PFD so, had I fallen in, it would have been a tricky situation to get back in the boat.
We came back empty handed from the morning's hunt and began packing the boats for the trip ahead. Our plan was to float about five miles down river, hunting, fishing, and relaxing along the way. Thanks to the folding design, I was able to pack all of my gear in dry bags and stuff it into the kayak's belly. I had the Sealline 70 liter Black Canyon Boundary Portage Pack loaded with all my camping gear and a smaller 20 liter Black Canyon Dry Bag loaded with all of my camera gear. Sealline specifically recommends you not put important and expensive gear inside of lightweight dry bags like these, but I took my chances.
Oru offers a pair of float bags ($70) for the bow and stern of the boat to provide additional flotation. I loaded one up front and still had room to put my sleeping bag, in a dry bag, in front of my feet behind the front bulkhead.
The water in the river is not the tastiest so we carried as much clean water with us as we could. I had two 3L Camelbacks stuffed behind my waist.
My Big Agnes Zirkel SL 20 sleeping bag up in the bow.
Loaded, folded, and ready to go! For the remainder of the trip, I kept my camera in the bow bag.
Patrick on the hunt with Stephen chauffeuring him along.
With any sort of hunting, safety is imperative. The man in the bow of the boat was the hunter while the guy in the back was in charge of steering the canoe along. If birds came and presented the opportunity to fly by the side of the canoe, the guy in the back would load up his shotgun in prep for a shot. Shooting over your buddies head, while seated so close, is just a bad idea.
On the aerial view of the map, we had seen some smaller little offshoots of the river that looked perfect for duck, we followed these and kept our eyes peeled. It was in here that Patrick, at the head of the group spotted the first duck that we would have for dinner, a male bufflehead. The bird was hesitant to take off from the water so we slowly inched our way closer. As quick as he was airborne, he was back in the water. And so was Benton!
Oru makes a 4-piece folding paddle for $150 that worked great for me the entire trip.
This kind of hunting has quickly become one of my favorites. Gone are the long distance slogs with heavy packs, replaced with a reclined seat and a cold brew.
Benton had his eyes peeled the whole time. He was so anxious to retrieve that we almost threw the one duck he had already retrieved back in for him.
After floating for most of the day, we broke off into a small little lake shrouded by a tall layer of reeds. Gliding as quietly into the lake as possible, I saw it loaded with coots and, hiding among them were ten or so ducks. I was able to confirm with my binoculars. We did our best to spread out, but with only one point of entry, it was difficult for us to circle the ducks and get close enough for a shot. We managed to herd a pair of them towards Patrick and Steve and they went blazing after them. Patrick got the first one and was on to the second as they were already behind the canoe. He had spent his third shell when Steve whipped around and, in a shot for the records, sent the second duck to the water about 50 yards out. We had three ducks for dinner and we had found a great spot to hunt the next morning too.